The news that Britain has slipped back into a recession should not be surprising. The economy experienced a 0.2 % fall following the decline in the figure of 0.3% in previous quarter which now puts the economy technically into a double dip recession- the first time since 1975. I would argue that the local economy has probably never recovered from the recession 4 years ago. As a guess the North Staffs economy has shrunken by about 8-10% since 2008. The signs of a turn down are everywhere most noticeably in the local jobs market. If we take the Sentinel as a guide the Wednesday section has been advertising around 300 jobs over recent weeks.
Doubtless the next week will be full of commemorative events regarding the Titanic sinking. However for those interested in free speech and free expression then April 11th– the day that I write- has significance. For today is the 400th anniversary of the last person to be burnt at the stake on the charge of heresy and he was a Staffordshire man. Edward Wightman went to the stake on the 11th April 1612 at Lichfield. He was a businessman and local Baptist minister in Burton. He also had business interests in Uttoxeter and Cheadle. Continue reading
They were the only clients I saw today and I spent a great deal of time with them unravelling the depth of their debts. They had around 25k of debt about 11k of that was on credit cards but the biggest problem was the 7k they owed Inland Revenue.
They were not local and had crossed the county border because they felt that everyone would know their business.
He had been a self-employed decorator for several years while she had a job in an office. His business was failing and despite his best efforts he had not earned anything for months. He had tried leafleting in the affluent parts of Greater Manchester and Cheshire to try to drum up some business but to no avail.
He and his wife had tried everything and they were running out of road.
I felt very sorry for them, as they both were haggard. He told me that they had little sleep and they discussed nothing else. They had tried to keep the enormity of the situation away from their young children. Their greatest fear was that they would lose their house. They felt very guilty.
There were not claiming Tax Credits which would generate a little income- I gave them the number- and I suggested that he sign on although as self-employed he could not claim any JSA. However he would be able to access some support and get his NI contributions paid. He greeted this suggestion gloomily that he never had dreamed that he would be receiving benefit. I tried to convince him that he had paid his National Insurance contributions and that it was only like paying car insurance. I also thought that he should try the self-employed debt line that exists and finally they should see their doctor as they looked in a bad way.
I pushed various documents in his hand and booked an interview with our specialist debt counsellor. Perhaps as we get into warmer weather business might pick up. I’m an optimist.
If anyone experiencing debt problems read this then the first thing they should do is to visit their local CAB. If this particular couple had seen us earlier we would have advised them to priorities the revenue debt because they can take the house. The couple had been trying to pacify the credit card company rather than negotiate with Inland Revenue. They were also scathing about their bank, which had not been helpful and seemed to them predatory.
I suspect this story is found in other towns in the UK. This recession has likely hit small firms and the self-employed especially hard. I see little or no evidence of green shoots in the small-firm sector. Incomes are probably way down, but by how much remains uncertain. The combination of low demand and lack of access to capital suggest that times are particularly tough. It would be good to hear from business owners and the self-employed on how well they are doing. Is it as bad as I think it is? I hope not.